Why am I too scared to use my disability parking permit?

November 12, 2015

I received a disability parking permit this week...yet, I am currently too scared to use it.

Too scared to face the condemning looks as I step out of the car and walk without visible impairment into the shops. 

Too scared to hear the words, 'But you are not disabled!' shouted across the parking lot. 

Too scared to return to my car to see an angry note shoved on the windshield, 'Leave the spots for someone who actually needs them.'

The many stories making the news this week of others facing the same issue are most definitely not helping me feel any more confident about accessing these parking spaces.

See I have an invisible illness. A chronic illness that it is not apparent by looking at me, the 30-something, well presented woman standing in front of you. Yet, I have a very real, very debilitating and crippling disease. You could walk past me and not have a clue to what is going on inside my body, I look no different to the person next to me. However, I have a body where breathing is exhausting and the pain is constant. A body that doesn’t allow me to leave the house or my bed on a regular basis. There is nothing imaginary about my illness. Three years of debilitating symptoms are proof of this. It may be invisible, yet it is very real.

One of the different requirements of the permit I received is that you are detrimentally affected physically by walking 100 metres.

100 metres.

I am ashamed and embarrassed that my life has been so hugely affected by 100 metres. Three years ago I was training for a half marathon. These days 100 metres is torture, and has day long repercussions. 

100 metres.

If I do make it out of the house, I am the woman praying fervently for a parking spot as I do laps around the car park. 'Please God, let there be a close spot today. I don't have the energy or the pain levels to have to walk from the back of the parking lot.' I am the woman who had long outsourced my supermarket shopping. I am the woman whose last attempt to try clothes on in Target left me in bed for a week...and I didn't even walk away with a new dress! I am the woman attempting to attend 3 to 4 appointments a week to manage my disease. I am the woman whose only achievement in a day is making it to that appointment.

Take for example my physiotherapy appointments. These are located one suburb over...a five minute maximum drive. Yet the parking situation is so atrocious in this suburb that I need to leave 20 minutes before the appointment, take 5 minutes to get there, spend 10 minutes driving laps around the multiple carparks trying to find any parking spot, and when I do find a spot make sure I have 5 minutes to walk over 400 metres to the clinic. Then I have a 30 minute appointment that requires both physical and cognitive energy, and then I need to make the walk back to the car. The toll that this takes on my body leaves me in bed for the rest of the day. If I was able to access one of the disabled parking spaces closer to the clinic, this might mean I have enough energy to make and eat my lunch when I get home, or not max out my pain medications for the day.

Then I wonder about the other benefits of accessing these parking spaces. Maybe I could make it to the pharmacy to pick up my medication without it being my only outing of the day, and leaving me doubled over in pain? Maybe I might be able to make it to the beach, or the movies, or out for dinner, and actually be able to enjoy being out of the house, instead of worrying about how far away I am going to need to park and how much of my limited energy it might use? Maybe I will be able to reclaim some of my independence, not needing to rely on someone else to drive me just so they can drop me at the door? Maybe it might be okay?

Yet, why am I so scared?

Is there such large scale abuse of these parking spaces from those who do not meet the requirements to park there? 

Is there that much of a misunderstanding of disability and illness?

Is there a culture of mistrust of medical and government organisations that make the decisions to approve these permits? 

Why then do people receive such abuse for parking in a space that they have both medical and governmental approval to park in?

What does this say about our tolerance, our compassion, our understanding of others?

I would honestly give anything to not need to park in one of these spots. 

I hope and pray that as I begin to use my permit there will be enough compassion, grace and understanding for me to be able to access that 100 metres that my body will allow. I live with enough personal shame and embarrassment about how my body has left me, I hope I won’t have more of it inflicted on me by others.

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  1. Hi! I saw your post on the Mighty.
    I too, received a parking permit, earlier this year. And I too, went through the stages of fear you are experiencing. But in the end... Your health is important. There will always be people who will never understand, or never even try to. There will always be differences in opinion. One day, someone is going to hurt you, for doing what they think is 'the right thing'. It's an inevitability. However... Your health is important. I have chronic pain, pain that now requires me to use a wheelchair, and admittedly beforehand I walked with an awkward shuffle with or without a cane. I'd happily give my permit up if it meant also giving up that pain, but that isn't to be... So make the most of the chance you have been given to ease some of the physical burden on your life. Good luck, you are not alone.



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